Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, Part 14 by Greg Dziawer

This week's film has that touch of mink.

As the 1970s wore on, hardcore pornography deepened its roots as a mass cultural object. This was a pioneering era that can never be replicated. We know now, more than ever, just how active Edward D. Wood, Jr. was in the sex film industry during these crucial years. And although we have a great deal more to learn, it's widely accepted that Ed played a role—multiple roles, really—in the production of 8mm silent porn loops.

The SE logo as it looked in 1978.
More than any other, the brand that led the charge of pornography into America's bedrooms was Swedish Erotica. I'll refrain from repeating myself and instead direct you back to previous articles in which I've obsessed over the ephemeral details in these short erotic films. Swedish Erotica loops were marketed directly to consumers rather than theaters or arcades. You had to supply your own projector and screen, and the films originally lacked sound, but at least you could watch them in the privacy of your own home.

Until the late 1970s, Ed Wood worked for a company called Art Publishers, Inc, which released Swedish Erotica films and tie-in magazines. The company was run by Noel Bloom, son of porn publisher Bernie Bloom. A decade earlier, Bernie had hired Ed to work in the West Coast office of Pendulum Publishers, Inc., which initially specialized in adult magazines and paperbacks. When Noel began producing adult loops in the early 1970s, he naturally recruited old pro Ed Wood to work on them.

The Swedish Erotica loop series arguably peaked in 1978. Well over a hundred loops were released to the home market that year. Ed passed in December of that year, but he had been penning subtitles for Bloom-family loops at least as far back as 1972, and he continued receiving paychecks from Art Publishers, Inc right into the final year of his life.

I've been transcribing the subtitles from dozens of loops for the last few years. These subtitles are odd throwbacks to an earlier, more primitive era of cinema, almost like the intertitles from silent movies. I've increasingly come to believe that the subtitles for the Bloom-family loops were written by Ed Wood himself. He likely wrote box cover summaries and even loop titles as well.

And that brings us to our next specimen: Swedish Erotica loop #146: "Blond Mink." This film, released near the end of Ed Wood's life, may not feature the most stellar set of subtitles I've come across, but it deserves some attention nevertheless.

The loop begins with a title card and credits. Three crew members are listed, but their names are different from those credited in earlier Swedish Erotica loops. A rather straightforward sex scene then ensues. Prolific porn performer Paul Thomas, a talented adult director in his later years, stars alongside blonde-haired Sindee Moore, who appears here without her usual colorful neck scarf. While the earliest Swedish Erotica loops developed narratives and characters and were shot with a careful artistry, those pretenses had almost completely evaporated by 1978. In "Blond Mink," the guy simply shows up at the girl's place, and they immediately get it on. Strangely, though, one last pretense was hanging on by its fingertips—the subtitles.

We are getting close to the end of the subtitled loops by Swedish Erotica #146, and the evolution of the subtitles through the mid-'70s mirrors the evolution of the narratives and artistry. The subtitles are so superfluous by 1978 that their existence seems utterly unnecessary. You'll see what I mean as you read the following transcript.

Girl: OHHHHHH...GOD... 

A pair of mink stoles.
That's it—a measly 14 words spread across four lines, totaling about ten seconds of screen time during this seven-and-a-half-minute loop. Incredibly, the last line appears while Paul and Sindee are still engaged in oral foreplay, loooooong before the loop's literal climax. In the earlier Swedish Erotica loops, that moment would have been accompanied by plenty of panting UMM's, OHHHH's, and AHH's. 

For those keeping score, "Blond Mink" has an average of 3.5 words per line. It's not the lowest average I've seen (that's 2.6), but by far, it's the least number of lines. As with other latter-day Swedish Erotica loops, the subtitles appear fittingly in purple.

Why even bother with the subs at this point? Old habits die hard, apparently. The subtitles died, too, roughly around the same time Ed passed. It's plausible that this is his work, but the text is so scant that there's too little evidence of Ed's unorthodox, highly distinctive writing style. That said, we do have two ellipses in the third subtitled line, punctuation oft-employed by Ed. And in 14 words, "tongue" appears twice. Ed's adult paperbacks and magazine short stories are rife with slashing, piercing, and darting tongues, either when his characters are kissing or when (as here) they're engaged in oral sex. The OHHHHHH, meanwhile, is just exemplary.

The title, too—and I'm again suggesting it was likely Ed's invention—is productive to interrogate. Knowing Ed's penchant for grammatical errors, I first thought it odd to see the word BLOND without an E. Upon further study, used as an adjective, Ed may have been right to utilize the masculine form of the word, especially in the United States. 

And then we come to the word MINK. Minks are carnivorous mammals related to otters, weasels and ferrets. We know them best for their fur. I have two of my grandmother's mink stoles, the old-fashioned kind with the heads still on, in my attic right now.

The blonde—the word is feminine if used as a noun and generally derogative—does, in fact, eat meat in the film, so perhaps being carnivorous is the reference. Given his angora affliction, it's also possible that Ed Wood had fur on the brain. Somehow, though, I don't think so. In one of his blond(e) moments, Eddie seemingly confounded "mink" and "minx." 

Urban Dictionary defines a minx as "an alluring, cunning, or boldly flirtatious girl or young woman. [She] has unusual seductive powers such that she could commit acts that would otherwise be considered inappropriate, while still maintaining an air of class or poise." That perfectly describes this film's leading lady. Surely, this is what Ed meant the title to reference. 

Ed Wood could very well have penned the box cover summary for this film as well. Though characteristically overheated in the most generic manner of porn, the word "luscious" jumped out at me as a word Ed used often for a full decade, going back to his magazine work at Pendulum.

A summary of the film. Note the spelling change in the title.

You can watch "Blond Mink" here. And keep watching this space for more dizzying updates as the Wood Loop Odyssey continues to spin out of control.